Best workout apps we’ve used: improve your fitness in just 20 minutes a day

We all have busy lives, it comes with the times we live in, and while this does wonders for productivity, it can mean that it is increasingly difficult to find the time or energy to stay in shape. Either we’re neck deep in social obligations or we’re constantly grinding for a paycheck – either way we’re not exactly eager to set aside huge amounts of time to work out every week. However, the best fitness apps will help you stay fit, and they’ll do it without requiring a huge time commitment.

Winter is coming, and the warm summer weather is a distant memory, so everyone is going to want to spend their time indoors. While this is great for your video game backlog or Netflix queue, it’s more important than ever to stay active, especially with all of those delicious – albeit high-calorie, holiday meals. The best fitness apps are ready for this cold weather snap, and will supply you with quick High-Intensity-Interval-Training (HIIT) routines that will fill your exercise quota in no time flat.

There are three golden ideals that all of the best fitness apps will strive to reach: convenience, affordability and sports science. These features combine to make fitness apps that can revolutionize the way you look at fitness and exercise. Plus, with the best running gadgets, you can finally say goodbye to those pricey gym memberships and personal trainers.

There is a catch, though. There are hundreds of fitness apps on iOS and Android – as with any other kind of app – which makes finding the best fitness app for your personal needs and goals a hassle. Don’t worry though, you can save your energy for those intense workouts you’re already planning, because we’ve gone ahead and created a list of the best fitness apps you can install right now.

1. Nike+ Training Club 

Free: iOS, Android

With this very comprehensive and extremely stylish app, Nike offers 100+ workouts varying from endurance, mobility and strength with a host of both swift, 15-minute workouts and longer endurance sessions, so you can constantly change up your workout.

AirPlay and AppleTV support (along with Chromecast mirroring) will display the instructions on a larger screen or speaker system, and it even features a lot of famous athletes (including Rory McIlroy, Ellie Goulding and Serena Williams) busting a sweat with you as ‘motivation’.

An added bonus exists if you use the Nike+ Run Club app, as all your jogging efforts will be automatically synchronised to your Nike profile too, giving a complete picture of your fitness.

2. Freeletics

Free (Coaching from £2.28 ($2.69 / around AU$4) per week): iOS, Android 

Freeletics offers a host of workouts that are all centered around high intensity interval training, or HIIT. This platform revolves around four free platforms – Gym, Bodyweight Workouts and Training, Nutrition and Running.

Bodyweight was the app that started it all, and really pushes you to your limit through moves (that unsurprisingly use the weight of your body) such as sprawls, jump squats, pull-ups, burpees and sprints that you must finish as quickly as possible. 

There are videos for each exercise demonstrating proper form, and there is a great social aspect to the app which motivates you to stick to your plan, and push yourself to beat your personal bests.

If you opt to pay the subscription to access ‘Coach’, you get all the different workouts (satisfyingly named after characters from Greek mythology) and a workout plan tailored to your goals and current fitness levels. 

There is a further subscription that you can pay to access Nutrition, which gives you weekly nutrition plans to complement the intense workouts. 

3. Sworkit

Free (£3.98, ($4.99 / around AU$7) per month): iOS, Android

Tell Sworkit the type of workout you’re looking for (strength, cardio, yoga, or stretching) and the amount of time you’ve got to do it (anywhere from five minutes to an hour), and the app delivers moves to follow during your sweat session.

Choose to upgrade and the app will enable you to customise your workouts by setting the number of reps and the areas of the body you want to focus on.

It’s a simple system that offers great workouts for those already armed with knowledge of the areas they want to target.

4. Fiit

Free (Premium service is £120 a year (around $150, AU$215): iOS

There are lots of workout apps that you can cast up to your TV, but not many are like Fiit. This fitness app allows you to participate in boutique fitness classes from wherever you are using your phone, or you can connect it up to your TV for a full and far more extensive experience.

Fiit is presented by a series of personal trainers from all over the globe, and the aim is to give you a high-end studio fitness routine whenever you want without having to travel miles to your local gym to do it.

There’s a plethora of classes with all expertise levels covered and a variety of activities from yoga to HIIT workouts all covered. At the moment the app is only available on iOS, but Fiit plans to launch on Android in the future.

Something to note is the free app isn’t the most extensive experience. If you like the idea of Fiit, you can subscribe either monthly, quarterly or yearly to get the full experience. That comes with a heart rate tracker to help you improve your performance, and that’s when the Fiit experience comes together and makes the most sense.

It isn’t cheap, but it’s far more affordable when you compare it with what it’d cost you to attend boutique classes like these in real life.

5. Daily Yoga

Free (with in app purchases): iOS, Android

Fitness isn’t just about squat-thrusts and burpees, and this app explores alternative ways to stay fit by packing in high definition video as an ideal introduction to the ways of the Yogis.

All the routines are under 30 minutes and there are 50 classes available – the Yoga for Runners is particularly recommended if you’re a jogger and getting worryingly stiff – and each session is categorised according to the body part you want to focus on.

6. Seven

Free (£3.99 ($3.53 / around AU$7) per month for premium): iOS, Android

Treating fitness like a classic (but basic) video game, Seven sets you the challenge of working out for seven minutes a day for seven months using no more than a chair, wall and your own body weight.

You start with three lives but missing one day will lose one of them (shown as a heart, rather menacingly) and missing three in a month will reset your progress to zero.

If you stick to it you’ll see results, but it’s worth paying the extra per month for the premium workouts to avoid the monotony of the free routines.

7. Workout Trainer

Free (pro version £5.58, $6.99 (around AU$10)/month): Android, iOS (Apple Watch and Android Wear compatible)

With a dizzying selection of over 1000 intense workouts ranging in length from five to 15 minutes, each with step-by-step audio and video instructions, if there’s nothing in Workout Trainer to tempt you from the sofa you’re in serious trouble.

As well as the standard workouts, you can build your own custom routines and share them online, as well as trying out some of the community-created routines yourself.

A Pro subscription gives a big upgrade in features, such as advert-free HD workout videos and even more routines to torture your screaming muscles with.

8.  Pilates Training from Fitivity

Free (pro version costs £3.99 ($5, around AU$7)): iOS, Android

Pilates is all about strengthening the core – specifically the back, abdomen and hips. Ask any fitness pro and no matter what level of fitness you are, they’ll harp on endlessly about the importance of this area for back strength, balance, posture, strength and flexibility.

While not offering everything you could want – few Pilates apps are perfect, we’ve found – Fitivity offers all the instructions you need to start training your core, with simple-to-follow routines.

Do it for the three free weeks and, if you want more, the pro version will give you unfettered access when you pay up.

9. Pact

Free: iOS, Android

Tried all the above but still can’t seem to find 15 minutes to work up a tiny sweat? Does money motivate you more than the idea of a healthy heart and a six-pack?

If so, you need Pact, the first app that encourages you to gamble on your ability to get fit.

Wager how many days you reckon you can work out, put some money where your mouth is and get running.

It pairs with your phone’s GPS as well as with RunKeeper, Fitbit, Jawbone Up and MapMyRun and the more you stick to your programme the more cash you can win from competing lazy members.

10. Runtastic Training series

Free (upgraded versions £1.99 / $1.99 / AU$3.99) : iOS, Android
Runtastic sounds like it’s only good for one thing, but actually it’s brilliant at bodyweight strength training too.

There are loads of apps by Runtastic – confusingly, a lot of them seem to do similar things but look completely different – but we’re really into Sit Ups, Squats, Press Ups and Pull Ups at the moment, as they’re just so friggin’ simple.

Simply start the app, it’ll tell you where to hold your phone, and how many reps to do. You’ll get rest targets (which the more hardcore of you can skip) and the progression every couple of days feels manageable. You can even save your workout progress to the cloud and use other devices when needed.

The free version only gets you to level one, but by the end of that you’ll be fully into how much stronger you’re getting and the upgrade cost to Pro is fully worth it. If you’ve been an Adidas MiCoach user in the past, you’ll get free access to the Pro apps automatically too (thanks to Adidas buying Runtastic fairly recently).

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